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Ohio State Rolls Into Tournament Field
Ohio State Rolls Into Tournament Field
The Buckeyes avenged two regular season losses to Michigan State by bouncing the top-seeded Spartans out of the Big Ten Tournament Saturday afternoon by a score of 82-70 . The big upset came on the heels of a mild one in Friday's quarterfinal, a tight game that saw Ohio State edge Wisconsin, 61-57 . The strong showing in back-to-back wins by Thad Matta's troops lands them in today's final against Purdue, and buffs up their resum
The Buckeyes avenged two regular season losses to Michigan State by bouncing the top-seeded Spartans out of the Big Ten Tournament Saturday afternoon by a score of
. The big upset came on the heels of a mild one in Friday's quarterfinal, a tight game that saw Ohio State edge Wisconsin,
. The strong showing in back-to-back wins by Thad Matta's troops lands them in today's final against Purdue, and buffs up their resumé for the NCAA selection committee.
Ohio State's leading scorer Evan Turner was held scoreless in the first half against the Spartans, but William Buford and Jon Diebler helped the Bucks to a five point lead at the break. Turner then took over, scoring all 18 of his game-high points in the second half, including 10 of 11 at the free throw line as Michigan State tried desperately to cut into the Buckeyes' double-digit lead late in the game.
It was not to be though, as the Buckeyes (22-9) extended their lead to 10 points at the 12:21 mark of the second half, and the gap reached 17 at 65-48, and again at 82-65. The 7th-ranked Spartans had several opportunities to make a game of it, but their shooting touch deserted them when it counted, and they were never able to get closer than 10 points the rest of the way. Point guard Kalin Lucas led the Spartans in scoring with 17 points, and his backup, freshman Korey Lucious added 16 on five 3-pointers.
Diebler was 5 for 10 on 3-pointers in the game for the Buckeyes, and two of his second-half treys were like daggers to the Spartan heart. Just seven seconds into the half, he nailed one to push the Buckeye lead to eight and serve notice that Ohio State was going to stick around for another 20 minutes. And his second one of the half came with just under six minutes to go in the game, stretching the OSU lead out to 17 and pretty much saying "Sayonara Sparty".
The Buckeyes proved the more balanced team on this day, getting more scoring from their point guards and big men than they have for much of the season. P.J. Hill (6) and Jeremie Simmons (8) combined for 14 points from the point guard spot, and Dallas Lauderdale (5) and B.J. Mullens (12) pitched in 17 from the post.
And it's also fair to say that the Bucks out-defended their opponents, forcing the Spartans into two long scoring droughts that ultimately cost them the game. In the first half, Michigan State went five minutes without a field goal, allowing the Bucks to turn a one-point lead into an eight point spread. And in the second, they went almost seven minutes without a bucket, and when they looked up, the Buckeyes had stretched a 7-point lead to 16, and it was all but over.
By the time you read this column, we may know where this late Buckeye burst will land Matta's team in terms of seeding in the NCAA's, but if CBS analyst and OSU's own Clark Kellogg is on target, it may have elevated OSU from a likely 8 or 9-seed before the tournamment began, to a possible 6-seed or better, based on the new and improved Buckeye profile. Just moving from an 8-seed to a 7-seed could allow them to avoid meeting a No.1 in the second round, if they are fortunate enough to win their first round game.
Revenge is Sweet II
Just getting to the BiG Ten semifinal required the Bucks to get past another conference foe for the first time this season, as the Wisconsin Badgers came into the tournament seeded fourth, to the Buckeyes No. 5, having defeated Ohio State 55-50 in their only meeting of the regular season. On Friday in Indianapolis, it was again a balanced Buckeye offense led by Evan Turner's 19 points, and a stifling defense rising to the occasion when the game was on the line that turned back the Badgers 61-57.
Wisconsin held a 7-point advantage at 54-47 after Jason Bohannon's 3-pointer at the 6:03 mark of the second half, and it looked as if Ohio State might soon be packing for the return trip to Columbus. But the OSU defenders turned it up a notch and held the Badgers without a field goal the rest of the way, and the Bucks grabbed the momentum behind two free throws and a bucket by Turner and then a huge 3-pointer by Diebler at the 2:25 mark. Diebler's triple put the Bucks back in front to stay at 55-54 and completed the decisive 8-0 run for OSU.
Turner then broke a 55-55 tie on a driving layup with 53 seconds to play, and some clutch free throw shooting by Jeremie Simmons and P.J. Hill in the waning seconds held off the Badgers. Turner was the only Buckeye with more than three field goals, but the scoring was evenly distributed behind him, as Simmons had 10, William Buford contributed 9, Dallas Lauderdale had 8 points and 5 boards, and P.J. Hill added 7 points. Diebler hit 2 of 5 three-point attempts and finished with six.
Gimme a Boilermaker
Purdue has looked formidable in the tournament so far, scorching Penn State in the quarters, and then outclassing Illinois on Saturday. A healthy Robbie Hummel has them looking like the pre-season conference favorite that they were back in November, and it will take another stellar defensive effort by the Buckeyes if they want to bring the trophy home on Sunday. Purdue has started fast in both their tournament wins, so it will be telling if the Buckeyes can hang with the Boilermakers early in Sunday's final.
I've said it before, but it bears repeating that Thad Matta has worked wonders with his young group this season to win 22 games and get into the NCAA's with a team comprised of all underclassmen and one JC transfer. He has worked with just a seven-man rotation by necessity after the injury to David Lighty, but his active pressure defense has allowed the Buckeyes to stay competitive in most every game.
One of the biggest factors in the late-season surge by OSU has been the energy on both ends of the floor provided by backup point guard P.J. Hill. Of course, having a "go to" guy like Evan Turner doesn't hurt either, when you get into a late-game situation needing a clutch bucket. It has been a treat to watch Turner come up big time and again this season. The sophomore from Chicago has been playing like the senior this team doesn't have. Enjoy his last couple games in Scarlet and Gray.
It looks like the Buckeyes will be part of a strong Ohio contingent in the NCAA Tournament, with Akron (at this moment hammering Buffalo) looking likely to join Cleveland State, Dayton, Xavier and OSU in the field of 64.
Lemme hear ya....
Mar 14, 2009 7:00 PM
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